Beating Ted Cruz
By Steve Deace
Stuff is about to get real for Ted Cruz.
Now that he received three times the support of his next closest competitor in the 2016 straw poll at the Values Voters summit, and he’s getting 8-minute standing ovations from the grassroots, the freshman U.S. Senator from Texas turned conservative rock star is about to learn there’s a big difference between being a precocious upstart and a viable threat.
He now has the bulls-eye on his back, and it won’t just be the liberal media trying to give him the Sarah Palin treatment he has to worry about. Cruz is now already so far in front in the 2016 Republican presidential primary that he’s going to become a unifying force for all the other potential candidates—against him.
The anonymous sniping by staffers of jealous Republicans that was populating the pages of mainstream media during #MakeDCListen is going to grow louder and more frequent now. Every time a grassroots conservative fails or has a Todd Akin moment, both the Republican Party establishment and their willing accomplices in the mainstream media will attempt to pin it on Cruz. In short, the Government Party status quo Cruz and the grassroots he represents threaten will attempt to do to him what they did to Sarah Palin.
And that will backfire.
First of all, Cruz isn’t Palin. He’s not saddled with being unevenly-yoked to undocumented Democrat John McCain as his underling as Palin was. Rather, Cruz is surrounded by a young, aggressive staff of movement conservatives who at times almost make him look timid.
Second, he’s a former national debate champion who has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, so he’s also logged more practice time in the shark tank than Palin had before she came out of Nowhere, Alaska. Finally, the grassroots was so shell-shocked by what happened to Palin in 2008 they were put back on their heels. This time they’ll be better prepared to defend their own.
All of these are reasons why attempts to inflict Cruz with Palin-Derangement-Syndrome will only further cement his grassroots support, and also make the grassroots more loyal to him. The grassroots doesn’t trust candidates who want to become acceptable to both the ruling class as well as the grassroots. The grassroots wants to defeat the ruling class. The grassroots despises the ruling class, so anybody the ruling class views as their biggest threat is exactly what the grassroots wants.
But that doesn’t mean Cruz is unbeatable.
We are a fickle electorate, tired of being betrayed and always on the look-out for the next, big disappointment. Case in point: in January if I would’ve told you that Marco Rubio’s 2016 hopes would be toast by Labor Day would you have believed me? What if back in March after #StandwithRand I would’ve told you that wouldn’t even end up being the most memorable filibuster of the year?
A year ago at this time Cruz was just a name to many of the people wishing him to be their standard-bearer now. Having met him and interviewed him a few times, it’s obvious he’s a gifted politician with at least some degree of courage of conviction that is all too rare these days. But he’s also human. It’s entirely possible he could’ve peaked too soon. It’s entirely possible he’ll make a colossally bad call, like fellow “wacko bird” Rand Paul endorsing Ditch McConnell.
It’s entirely possible he doesn’t want to run for president but has his eyes on being the Senate Leader instead. From that perch he could wreak havoc on the ruling class for years since he’s in a relatively safe seat (although even if he runs for president in 2016 and loses, Cruz isn’t up for re-election again until 2018).
If I’m running the 2016 presidential campaign for a conservative not named Cruz (i.e. Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, etc.) the best way to defeat Cruz is not to try and tear him down. Even if that’s successful it will be a Pyrrhic victory, because it will also result in demoralizing a grassroots that probably can’t take another demoralizing. Candidates like Santorum, Jindal, Walker and Rand Paul want the grassroots engaged and inspired, not demoralized. Winning by marginalizing your own base is actually losing.
Therefore, the most constructive way to beat Cruz is to beat him at his own game.
Cruz has vaulted ahead because the grassroots sees him willing to side with them over the system, regardless of the heat he takes. There’s no reason the same can’t be said for other conservative candidates. Show the grassroots you want to cozy up to those of us suffering under the corruption of the ruling class, not the ruling class causing the suffering. Stand up to the Republican ruling class and the Left, as we recently saw Cruz do during his mesmerizing 21-hour quasi-filibuster.
Candidates can also point to a record of accomplishment in trying to take on the system. Walker crushed the government sector unions in Wisconsin, which is one of the biggest wins any elected Republican not named Ronald Reagan has had in recent GOP history. Jindal is attempting to take on the educrats in his state. Rand Paul helped lead the fight to stop another wasteful and useless Middle Eastern war in Syria.
But don’t rest on those laurels. Build on them. It will be tough for anybody, whether they’re name is Ted Cruz or not, to maintain the principled pace that Cruz has already established for another two years. However, should he falter others won’t be able to take advantage of that opportunity unless they make some more hefty deposits in the grassroots’ bank account. Right now Cruz has the prettiest balance sheet. If no one rises up to challenge him as a champion, he can withstand a disappointment or two.
All of this is counter-intuitive to the GOP consultant class. They will advise their clients to go negative on Cruz, say he’s overrated, and hasn’t really accomplished anything. Even if there is some truth to that, those talking points will have the proverbial effect of dropping a nuclear bomb on your neighbor’s house. Sure, you blew up his yard, but once the wind starts blowing the fallout ends up in your yard, too.
The grassroots has repeatedly shown the past few years they want to be inspired by hope not motivated by fear. If you think your guy is better for them than is Cruz, then prove it to them.
(You can friend “Steve Deace” or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow)